A grand jury has indicted one of the two San Francisco police officers who shot and severely injured 25-year-old Jamaica Hampton after he attacked police with a glass bottle in the Mission District last December, District Attorney Chesa Boudin said Monday.
The grand jury determined on Friday that there is probable cause to believe Officer Christopher Flores committed a crime in connection with the Dec. 7, 2019 shooting near Mission and 23rd streets, according to Boudin. The jury also returned an indictment against Hampton stemming from the same incident.
Hampton was rising to his knees after being shot by Officer Sterling Hayes when Flores, a rookie officer still undergoing field training, advanced toward him and fired a single shot, according to body-worn camera footage of the shooting released by police.
“Stop, stop, stop!” Hayes repeatedly yelled at Flores after the rookie officer opened fire.
Hampton survived but had his leg amputated after being shot.
Another cop charged
Flores is the second San Francisco Police Department officer to be charged in connection with a police shooting in just a matter of weeks after years without any officers facing charges in shooting cases.
On Nov. 23, Boudin announced his decision to charge another rookie officer, Christopher Samayoa, with manslaughter for fatally shooting 42-year-old Keita O’Neil through the windshield of a moving police car during a December 2017 pursuit in the Bayview. Samayoa was fired after the shooting.
Boudin has not disclosed the specific charges that Flores or Hampton will face, citing secrecy laws around grand jury proceedings. Both defendants are being asked to voluntarily surrender into custody on arrest warrants.
While Boudin has not asked for either to be held ahead of trial and requested only nominal bail for each, the court has set bail at a higher amount. That means Flores and Hampton could spend time in County Jail unless they can afford to bail out.
“As soon as the defendants are served with the warrants, we will be able to share with the public the scheduled arraignment date, the bail amount set by the court, and the specific charges that the grand jury chose to indict on,” Boudin said.
Nicole Pifari, an attorney for Flores, said both officers fired their guns at Hampton to defend themselves from death or serious injury during a “brutal, unprovoked, and incredibly violent attack.”
She also questioned whether the bullet Flores fired actually struck Hampton.
“We look forward to learning how the district attorney plans to prove what injury, if any, the single round fired by Officer Flores caused to Mr. Hampton,” Pifari said.
Danielle Harris, a public defender representing Hampton, said she was saddened but not surprised to learn of the indictment against her client.
“Jamaica has been punished far more than the law would ever allow,” Harris said. “I don’t believe that our legal system or community have anything to gain from prosecuting Jamaica Hampton given the swift and severe street justice that was dealt to him by police.”
The Hampton shooting was the first on-duty SFPD shooting of 2019. The incident raised concerns from critics who questioned whether the officers could have de-escalated the situation rather than opening fire.
The shooting also shaped up to be an early test for Boudin, who ran a campaign pledging to hold police accountable the November 2019 election.
In January, when Boudin withdrew various charges including assault that former interim District Attorney Suzy Loftus had filed against Hampton, the San Francisco Police Officers Association launched a website attacking Boudin for declaring “open season on cops.”
But Boudin told the Examiner at the time that the withdrawal was not a final decision. Rather, Boudin argued he could not proceed with a case against Hampton when the officers who shot him were also both under investigation by the District Attorney’s Office and would be expected to testify.
Both Police Chief Bill Scott and SFPOA President Tony Montoya have described the incident as an “unprovoked” attack on officers.
In a statement Monday, Montoya called the indictment “absolutely appalling.”
“Jamaica was the aggressor and Officer Flores acted to protect his own life and to protect the public,” Montoya said.
The police union head said Boudin sent a “clear” message to officers by securing an indictment against Hampton rather than directly filing charges against him through a complaint.
“Mr. Boudin is communicating to law enforcement officers today that they must choose between protecting their lives or protecting their freedom, but they cannot do both,” Montoya said.
The Hampton case is being prosecuted by the District Attorney’s Office Independent Investigations Bureau. The bureau was established under former District Attorney George Gascon but suffered from turnover and other issues.
Boudin has since hired former civil rights attorney Lateef Gray to lead the bureau. Gray previously tried civil court cases against officers as an attorney for the high-powered law offices of John Burris.
“It took me the better part of the year to get the Independent Investigations Bureau functioning the way it was created and designed to function,” Boudin said.
But the coronavirus pandemic prevented Boudin from convening a grand jury until recently. The grand jury that indicted Flores and Hampton was the first to be convened in 2020, Boudin said.
The Hampton shooting unfolded in less than a minute after the officers pulled up to a Mission District street corner in a police SUV and Hampton rushed them with a vodka bottle.
Flores and Hayes were searching for a suspect who reportedly broke through the door of a nearby apartment, startling a new mother and her baby, according to 911 audio from the incident released by police.
That same suspect is also believed to have attempted to break into police cars parked in the area, police said.
Hampton matched the description of the suspect.
The officers were about to stop him when he rushed the passenger-side door of the police SUV and attacked Hayes, according to police and various videos of the incident.
Hayes kicked Hampton away as Flores circled around the vehicle to help his partner.
Hampton then struck Flores over the head repeatedly with the Grey Goose bottle.
Flores responded with baton strikes as he fell backward onto the ground and stumbled away.
Hampton appeared to chase Flores until Hayes drew his gun and stopped Hampton on the sidewalk.
“Get on the ground now,” Hayes shouted.
Hampton engaged in a brief standoff with Hayes, pausing with the bottle still at his side, before running in between cars into the street and onto the other sidewalk.
Hampton then advanced toward Hayes with the bottle when the officer discharged six rounds at him.
Hampton fell to the ground as Hayes turned around to report the shooting on his radio.
Flores then appeared to close the distance and fire the final shot at Hampton as the suspect rose to his knees.
Hampton fell back to the ground and the officers rendered aid.
A rookie cop and a rough upbringing
Flores was bloodied by the incident. He could be seen in one video holding a cloth to stop a wound on his face from bleeding.
Flores had graduated from the Police Academy less than five months before the shooting on July 26, the Examiner previously reported.
He remains an officer assigned to the SFPD Field Operations Bureau, according to department records.
Hayes, a seven-year veteran, is also still on the force.
Hampton is a formerly homeless man from Sacramento who worked as a waiter in Oakland.
Before the shooting, he was featured in a video by a social services organization describing his experience growing up in-and-out of homelessness.
Hapton said he was raised in a “drug house” and previously struggled with addiction. But he said he turned his life around and wanted to be a role model for children.
Hampton was shot three times during the incident.
He had his left leg amputated in January as a result of the shooting and suffered permanent nerve damage to one of his arms, according to his attorney.
He just received a prosthetic leg last month. Then last week, his mother died.
“As Jamaica’s lawyer, I look forward to helping him navigate the court process in a way that will hopefully minimize further trauma to him and his community,” Harris said.
This story has been updated to include additional comments.